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Give Minnesota's Hageman Edge Over Penn State's Jones

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Minnesota defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman (No. 99) towers over most players at 6-foot-6, and his athleticism gives him great NFL potential. Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images.
Penn State's DaQuan Jones is relentless. Photo by David Dermer/Getty Images.

Minnesota’s Ra’Shade Hageman and Penn State’s DaQuan Jones, both seniors and heavily hyped players, will have long NFL careers ahead of them for one reason: Effort.

It can’t be said enough that work ethic will take you a long way, and for these two it is the best attribute that scouts will see on tape. But who is the better defender? After watching them last week and seeing film from 2012, it’s close in every possible way.

Effort, Work Ethic, Motor

Whatever you call it, it separates mediocre players from being good, good players from being great and great players from being legendary.

Here, we have to give a slight edge to Jones for his fierce pursuit on every play. Hageman isn’t far behind in this category, but he gets fatigued more quickly than Jones as the game wears on.

Minnesota and Penn State rotate Hageman and Jones with two other defensive tackles to keep everyone’s legs fresh, so conditioning may be a small question mark on Hageman’s scouting reports. However, it’s a very small question, because Hageman is close to being as athletic a 6-foot-6, 300-plus pound player as there is.

Run Stuffing

Hageman and Jones drew a double team on more than 75 percent of the opposing offense’s running plays last week, because one offensive lineman just isn’t enough to tame either’s ability to stop the run.

Even then, they were each able to hold their ground at the point of attack. In fact, at one point last week, Jones displayed superhuman strength by driving two offensive linemen and a fullback backward when Minnesota had to run a play from its own 1-yard line.

Their quick burst at the snap and excellent use of leverage makes them so good at the point of attack. Hageman, even at 6-foot-6, gets lower than most defensive linemen and gets underneath offensive linemen’s pads to drive them back.

Still, while they are equally capable of drawing and defeating double teams, Jones’ vicious hand work allows him to shed blocks more easily than Hageman, resulting in more tackles at the line of scrimmage and in the backfield.

Pass Rushing

Hageman and Jones entered the 2013 season wanting to get into the backfield more, and they have. Each has just two sacks this season, but they’re also drawing double teams more often than not.

Hageman keeps a much lower base than Jones off the snap, allowing him to penetrate the pocket quicker. However, Jones still has better use of his hands.

While they are both capable of disrupting the pocket, Hageman is more productive due to the seven passes defensed and one interception he has while pass rushing. His massive frame and vertical leap present a greater issue for opposing quarterbacks than just getting sacked.

NFL Potential

Neither of these players, both of whom are likely to get drafted in the second round, are going to be busts in the NFL.

Trust me.

But NFL teams are going to value Hageman’s combination of speed, size, versatility and playmaking ability more than Jones’ consistently disruptive play.